Heads Up: Northern Student Events Calendar 2017-18
Your month-by-month guide to the year's best events, from music festivals to carnivals and foodie feasts to Pride
Clubbing behemoth The Warehouse Project launches its 2017 season (16 Sep) just in time for your arrival, with LCD Soundsystem, Floating Points, Chemical Brothers, Craig David and Thundercat all on the bill between now and the New Year’s Day finale. If you're more in the mood for checking out some local bands, you can also kickstart the uni year with Stay Fresh Fest at The Deaf Institute (30 Sep; keep your eyes peeled for more details on round two in January, too), or scope out the talent from near and far at the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia. Catch some LOLs at Liverpool Comedy Festival (15 Sep-1 Oct), or simply get boozy at Leeds International Beer Festival (7-10 Sep) or Manchester's Indy Man Beer Con (28 Sep-1 Oct).
Following its debut last year, Neighbourhood Festival (7 Oct) returns to various venues in Manchester’s city centre with the likes of The View, The Subways, Peace, Ratboy, Black Honey, HMLTD and The Amazons, while Manchester Literature Festival (6-22 Oct) welcomes authors Armistead Maupin and Reni Eddo-Lodge, human rights activist Shami Chakrabarti and domestic goddess Nigella Lawson, and Design Manchester (11-22 Oct) celebrates the local design scene with talks, exhibitions, workshops, films, fairs and parties. You can also soak up some late night cultural vibes with Light Night Leeds (5-6 Oct), a yearly twilight celebration of the city's museums, landmarks and galleries, or get involved in one of the UK's leading LGBT arts festivals, Homotopia (30 Oct-1 Dec), in Liverpool.
Beacons Metro (2-5 Nov), the metropolitan reincarnation of Beacons Festival, brings the likes of Little Dragon, Jungle and Wiley to Leeds along with a roster of rising names, before the city rounds the month off with High & Lonesome Festival (25 Nov) featuring John Smith, Josh Rouse, The Travelling Band and others. There's also Dark City (3-5 Nov), a beer festival at Northern Monk dedicated to "all things dark" (so your stouts, porters, black IPAs and such), an ode to cinema with Leeds International Film Festival (1-16 Nov) – while across the Pennines HOME becomes host to Manchester Animation Festival (14-16 Nov), which doffs a cap to the animated art form across one weekend.
No doubt it’ll be the Christmas markets that succeed in vying for most of your attention this December, with German bratwurst, mulled wine and endless samples of curiously flavoured cheese to work your way through in both Manchester and Leeds. In Liverpool we suggest you get yourself over to the Winter Arts Market (2 Dec), where the area’s many designers, makers and creatives come together to provide you with the independently and locally made present potential that'll get you serious brownie points this Christmas.
January can be notoriously dull, what with post-Christmas poverty, the #DryJanuary hype and that small matter of impending exams. But it doesn’t have to be so! Get back on the bevs with the Brew-denell Beer & Ale Festival (13-15 Jan) at Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club or Manchester Beer & Cider Festival (25-27 Jan), or check out PUSH (12-20 Jan) cross-arts festival at HOME in Manchester to dip back into the local creative scene after a hedonistic festive period. Finally, Chinese New Year (28 Jan) wraps up the month with the cities’ Chinatowns leading the way for parades, markets and events.
One of Manchester’s favourite celebrations of LGBT culture returns, as Queer Contact festival (date TBC) serves up several days of theatre, music, dance, comedy, art and more. And don’t forget Valentine’s Day (14 Feb), you absolute bloody lothario, you! If you need a little help, head to theskinny.co.uk for guides to our favourite date spots in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool.
Following a successful inaugural festival last spring as the UK's first hop-led beer bash, Hop City returns to Leeds (date TBC) to fill your face with yet more delicious delights. Keep all those fingers and toes crossed for the return of Liverpool's grassroots festival Threshold (date TBC), too, which for several years has been bringing The Baltic Triangle to life with live music and arts – but came under threat last March when funding setbacks forced organisers to reach out to the local community for help via a crowdfunding campaign.
Leeds International Festival (28 Apr-12 May) makes a worthy return following last year's historic debut, which brought the city to life over the course of two weeks with tech events, live music, film screenings and more. You can also munch on some tasty global eats with the World Food Festival (20-22 Apr) at the Royal Armouries, which promises to be the biggest food and drink event that the city has seen, or sip on some cocktails at Cocktails in the City (6-7 Apr; Manchester, it's also your turn on 12 May and Liverpool's on 30 Jun). Meanwhile, Manchester flies the flag for the animal-friendly lifestyle with the Northern Vegan Festival (7 Apr), which last year graduated onto the gigantic Manchester Central convention centre.
May’s a month packed with some of our all-time favourites – not least Salford’s Sounds from the Other City (6 May), a beautifully bizarre grassroots festival that promises to give you some reet good fun times. Over in neighbouring Manchester there’s also multi-venue hopabout Dot to Dot (25 May). In Leeds, there’s another Skinny favourite in the form of Leeds Indie Food, which celebrates the region’s thriving independent food and drink scene through street food events, beer tastings and more, while Liverpool’s also got May nailed with its annual ace card, LightNight, a one-night arts and culture festival that takes place after hours at many of the city's museums, galleries and venues.
With those pesky exams out of the way, you’ll have plenty of time to revel in the North’s many summery happenings, including Africa Oyé at Sefton Park in Liverpool, the UK’s largest free celebration of African music and culture that always guarantees the good times, or Positive Vibration (8-10 Jun) festival of reggae. Parklife throws a bit of life into the outskirts of Manchester, as Heaton Park hosts the big names from the international circuit – Frank Ocean, Run the Jewels, Stormzy and The 1975 were among highlights from 2017's festival.
Above all else is Liverpool Biennial (14 Jul-28 Oct), a free festival of newly commissioned contemporary art from around the world that runs until autumn. Aside from that there's also Liverpool International Music Festival (20-22 Jul), a long weekend showcasing new talent while also celebrating Liverpool's music heritage, and the Sven Väth-curated Cocoon in the Park (14 Jul) in the grounds of Temple Newsam in Leeds.
August is the month of LGBT Pride in both Manchester and Leeds, when both cities will come to life with lots of live music, comedy, theatre, vigils and, of course, parades. Local rite of passage Leeds Festival may also be worth your time – if you like muddy fields, warm cider and portaloos, that is. End the month with a vibrant bank holiday blowout courtesy of Leeds West Indian Carnival and Caribbean Carnival of Manchester, where live music, street food and a colourful carnival atmosphere provide the suitably fun setting to do so.